Newsletter Insert September 2014

Drew’s Automation Insert

Drew Baryenbruch

Great Service: The Unfair Advantage Anyone Can Offer

No one has ever won a Medal of Honor saying, “That’s not my job.” In the same grain no employee at the DMV has ever won public acclaim for inhering to the bureaucracy the most stringently. We recognize greatness as going above and beyond. Customers respond to that kind of service. The key for young professionals is to balance your efforts to go above and beyond while also trying to be consistently efficient. The good news is its way easier than it seems.

Standards are not Designed to be Simply Met:
In all organizations the standards are not meant to be the mark you aspire to reach. By definition the standards are generally the bare minimum an employee needs to do to maintain employment. Companies don’t turn over 50% of their staff a year, so you can be pretty sure that the median you are being judged against is far from superior.

Typically the standards for service and support are based solely on easily measurable marks. Did you get and log all relevant information, did you log the case correctly, did you fix the problem, did you close the sale etc. Don’t get me wrong, that is the important stuff, but while still executing each of those expectations there is a broad spectrum of service you can offer and a similarly broad range of impressions you can leave on your customers.

You Don’t Need to Go an Extra Mile! (a few feet will do)
I couldn’t begin to quantify how much I have learned and how many happy customers I have made by simply investing as little as 5-10 minutes of my day. As you know, we make gateways. That means that almost all our customers are using our gateways to connect to another system they know little about. In many cases they are in the middle of two devices and don’t have experience with either. That means there are often questions posed to us about how the end device works.

It would be very easy, perfectly legitimate and within the standards for me to tell these people we are not responsible for how another company’s device works. Yet if I spend a few minutes on google I can usually find the answer the customer needs. I inevitably learn something and gain some application knowledge. If I can’t find the answer online I find a phone number and spend another 10 minutes to talk with a device manufacture. This means I call a new company with an applications example of a way we could potentially partner with them to help sell more of their widgets in those types of applications.

With 5-10 minutes I have made a customer very happy, improved my personal knowledge and often I open a door to new opportunity.

Why Service Matters?
There is the saying that if you have a bad experience you tell 10 people, and if you have a good experience you will tell 1 person. Those are risky odds, but they require you to implement a pretty simple strategy. Do as much as you can to create a good impression. Not because there is really good return on a good experience but because the negative return on a bad experience is so much more punishing.

Make Your Service Small Town even if you are Big City:
Even if you work for one of the big billion dollar companies in this industry, pretend you are an entrepreneur and each project and customer supports your family. “Did you read the manual” and “I’ll transfer you to that department” are not Ma & Pa shop service. Remember while those actions may clear your plate they will do little to encourage the loyal customers and associates you need to build your career upon.

A Personal Note on Service:
My background is in the service industry. My parents owned a restaurant. I grew up in, and my grandparents owned restaurants and a hotel before them. I didn’t add a 3rd generation to that legacy but I did pay my way through college serving, cooking and bartending. In that industry, service literally equated directly to monetary success. Prompt, friendly knowledgeable service equates to the dollar bills being left on the table or bar. Our industry is a bit less direct but the same principle applies. If you offer the service and support that impresses a customer they will look for an opportunity to work with you again.

I know I ran from the service industry after college to find a “real job” only to find out my “real job” was service.

Funny how life works out.

How to Pick the Perfect Barcode Scanner

We market some of our ASCII gateways as barcode scanner gateways and as a result I get many customers asking, “What barcode scanner do you recommend?” The honest answer is find the scanner that meets your needs and there are a number of variables to consider.

Some of the variables are intuitive.

Mounting: Do you want a handheld or a fixed scanner.

Scan Distance: How far away are the barcodes you need to scan? Some of the higher end scanners today can scan codes at over 50’. You typically pay for range.

Connections: What physical connection does the scanner supply the data over? As PC’s eliminated serial ports the scanners followed and now offer USB and some even offer Ethernet TCP/IP connections.

Serial RS232 DB9 – Up to 50’ runs. Allows for a secured screw in connection. Often requires an external power supply. RS232 is susceptible to electrical noise especially on longer runs.

USB – Less than 10’ runs (USB 2.0 & 3.0 support longer runs). Power is included. Not an industrial connection.

TCP – Up to 100 meter (328 feet) runs. Power is sometimes included in POE (Power Over Ethernet) Scanners.

Then there are the variables that are not as intuitive.

Durability: This variable often gets over looked or short changed due to price. There are a lot of scanners designed for POS (point of sale) or general lab work. Functionally, these scanners are perfect. But if your application is in an industrial setting make sure you get a rugged version. Yes, you will pay a premium for these scanners, but consider replacements and the cost of down time to justify the expense.

Pricing: Barcode Scanner pricing runs a broad spectrum from as low as $20 to as high as $2,000. The features and quality required can alter the pricing greatly.

My rule of thumb: If you need a reliable handheld skip any solution under $100. There are a lot of really good reliable options in the $150-$600 range.

Amount of Data you need to scan

1D barcodes also known as linear barcodes. They are limited to 30-80 characters. There is technically no limit to number of characters you can fit in a 1D barcode but the physical code print becomes so long that it’s impractical. Think of 1D barcodes much like Morse code, the longer the message the more dashes.


2D or Matrix barcode use X and Y coordinates to represent data. This makes data representation much more efficient. A 2D barcode can fit up to 300 characters in a .25”x.25” area. There are many different 2D symbology formats. Some can hold up to 3,000 characters of data.


Brand: We have 8 different scanners from leading manufactures. I beat them up on demo trips, rotate them into our production department, and hand them off to engineering for testing and new product development. If you’re following my pricing rule I haven’t found that brand makes a big difference.

Want to talk through an Industrial or Building Automation Application that requires a Barcode scanner?

Drop me a line. We have great solutions to help you interface a barcode scanner into an Allen-Bradly PLC, Modbus RTU, Modbus TCP/IP, BACnet/IP, BACnet MS/TP, Profinet, Profibus and DeviceNet.

New Developments

435NBX Diagnostics
No more pushing F5 to refresh the diagnostic pages of the 435NBX gateway. The pages are now fully dynamic allowing you to monitor the flow of ASCII data to and from your PLC in real time.

New Website Launches 

  • 10/10/14 Our new site will launch.
  • New Product Selector tool
  • Easy access to all product documentation and tools
  • More how to videos and lots of other fun RTA components.